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Annual ‘Wreaths Across America’ event set for this weekend

(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) The annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery is set to take place this weekend.

The event is taking place on Saturday, Dec. 18. It will look a little different due to the pandemic, according to Wreaths Across America, the organization that puts it on. 

Volunteers who wish to help place wreaths on the gravestones of fallen military servicemembers are required to register in advance. They will then show their email confirmation and a photo ID to participate, the event’s website says. Face coverings are required in any indoor part of the cemetery. 

“We are committed to ensuring the safety of all those that want to participate, and as such, will have designated entry gates and times for a limited number of registered volunteers to enter,” Wreaths Across America said. 

COVID-19 almost halted the event last year, as it was initially canceled but later reinstated — as former President Donald Trump rushed to take credit for the reversal. Last year, 1.7 million wreaths from Maine were placed on gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery and more than 2,800 other locations nationwide. 

“As one of the largest veteran cemeteries in the United States, the goal of placing a wreath on every marker is lofty,” the nonprofit said. “Our volunteers are committed to Remembering and Honoring our nation’s veterans through the laying of wreaths on the graves of our country’s fallen heroes and the act of saying the name of each veteran aloud.” 

This past Sunday, family pass holders had the opportunity to lay wreaths at their loved ones’ graves prior to public access.

Wreaths Across America is also accepting individual wreath sponsorships. In the past, the nonprofit has been the subject of scrutiny for its close ties to a Maine wreath manufacturer, both of which are run by the same family.

Arlington County police are planning a number of road closures in the area, associated with the wreath-laying event. More from ACPD:

The annual Wreaths Across America escort of handmade, balsam wreaths destined for Arlington National Cemetery will begin arriving in Arlington County on Friday, December 17th. The annual convoy of wreaths, originating in Maine and ending at Arlington National Cemetery, includes over 75 tractor trailers and numerous support vehicles that will reach the Cemetery at various times throughout the day.

On Saturday, December 18th, several thousand volunteers will descend upon the Cemetery and help lay wreaths on every gravesite throughout the property beginning at 8:00 a.m. The public can anticipate large crowds and heavy pedestrian traffic related to the event. Traffic is expected to be impacted in and around the immediate area and motorists are advised to allow for extended travel times and seek alternate routes to reduce road congestion.

Road Closures

The Arlington County Police Department and its partnering law enforcement agencies will close roads and monitor traffic conditions in order to accommodate the event. Volunteers and the public should be aware of the following potential disruptions on Saturday, December 18th, starting at 5:00 a.m. until approximately 2:00 p.m.:

  • Southgate Road, between Columbia Pike and S. Oak Street, will be closed and restricted to authorized vehicles only.
  • Temporary “No Parking” signs will be posted and vehicles in violation will be towed.
  • Marshall Drive, between N. Meade Street and Rt. 110, will be closed and restricted to authorized traffic only.
  • N. Meade Street will be closed from 14th Street N. to Marshall Drive, except for local residents and those using the Wright Gate to access Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
  • Memorial Avenue, from Memorial Circle to the Cemetery entrance will be closed.  Access to the Memorial Bridge from southbound George Washington Parkway and northbound Rt. 110 will also be closed.
  • Additional road closures will be implemented in locations along I-395, the George Washington Parkway, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, and the Pentagon Reservation by the Virginia State Police, United States Park Police, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Police, and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.

Other roads not listed may be closed for short durations at the discretion of law enforcement and in the interest of public safety. Motorists are reminded that parking on the shoulder of Rt. 110 is strictly prohibited.  Any vehicle that is left unattended will be towed at the owner’s expense.  Stopping or standing in the travel lanes to discharge or pick up passengers is also prohibited, and police officers will be patrolling along Rt. 110 to address observed violations of applicable traffic laws.

Arriving at Arlington National Cemetery

Attendees are encouraged to utilize multimodal and public transportation options to reduce vehicular congestion. A designated rideshare drop-off and pick-up zones has been established at the Hayes Lot in Pentagon City, located at 1100 S. Hayes Street.

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